wheelsofire

Deckchairs and the Titanic

In Democracy, Green issues, Irish Politics,, media, society on July 28, 2009 at 6:48 pm

The media are predicting the meltdown of the Greens, and the fact remains that the other parties would wish it to be so. Since the general election certain parts of the media have used the party as an easy target and a butt of cheap jokes. This tendency is quite fashionable,and often reminds me of Yeats’ line about the joke aimed at the commonest ear. Some of the bitterest are climate change deniers, who are often the neo-cons of yesteryear. The sort getting their info from right wing sites, being unable to muster a muster an argument of their own, and prone to bluster when challenged. Mind you, they are seldom challenged, as presenters prejudices surface.
One problem Green ministers have is overcoming the media need to have adversarial voices, allegedly for ‘balance’ but probably because rows are entertaining and allow presenters appear knowledgeable, even when they are not.
In fact this balance is spurious. Would Flat Earth believers have to be on for balance every time NASA are on? Creationists to argue with geologists?
This wastes about half the time available to get the message across. So there is a need to have the spokespeople well prepared for all eventualities.

I know about this: I was once on the Pat Kenny show and was asked a question I had no answer to as it referred to something I did not know because I had not been told. It was a killer question and referred to something important which happened some time before my experience. I stuttered and stumbled, stunned, and lamely passed the question over to my fellow representative who dealt with it quite well, all things considered. We had roughly prepared our script,but this diversion wasted our precious time. And my floundering was my own fault : I should have asked if there was anything I could be ambushed with. I didn’t and was ambushed. I should have guessed that the show’s researchers would have been in touch with all the other players in the story, looking for an angle
The result was we lost precious airtime when we were forced on the defensive when we could have been putting our cause to the nation.

So media relations should be taken in hand by the Greens and other progressives . If a climate change denier is set up to challenge a Minister, that Minister should be thoroughly briefed on their opponents. Be able to show the studies which show the links between the denier and energy companies. Be able to quote real, rather than dodgy. science, and able to remind people that the tactics used by the deniers are those used 50 years ago by those who denied the link between cigarettes and cancer, when some scientists prostituted themselves to ensure that tobacco remained little regulated, by casting doubt on the emerging proof. Even when tobacco firms actually were themselves aware of the hazards of smoking, a fact which emerged in court decades later, as a result of the discovery process.

Greed and profit were allowed condemn millions to death by lung cancer, and while the tobacco companies looked after themselves and their shareholders, the State gets to pay the health-care costs. Another case of socialism for the rich.
This time it is even more serious than cancer, because we won’t be able to reverse climate change damage, whilst we can choose to stop smoking. The traditional thinking holds that damages for a wrong can be compensated for in the courts of law, and whilst it has served well enough till now and enriched lawyers, it does not serve now. Some things cannot be replaced with money. And the economic value of the environment is seldom taken into account.

The public really need to know the lengths that big business will go to in order to ensure that their interests triumph.
Lots of money is spent on keeping tame journalists, paid-advisors and pet politicians ‘informed’ and sweet. Media focus on non-stories and ignore some more important ones.Here in Ireland the coverage of the Shell north Mayo story would be a case, where coverage has been mostly hostile to the protesters and is sparse. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation the little we hear could easily seem to be pretty onesided, and the protesters portrayed as violent Luddites/subversive/drunks/hippie/lefty anarchists.
Journalists attending conferences get goody bags, and important ones – important to clients of the conference organisers,that is – get special access to important people. This helps their careers and clearly only fools or well-resourced journalists have the integrity to bite the hand that feeds them.

This isn’t regarded as corruption, but surely journalists should have to have a register of interests just as politicians must; perhaps then we might be better informed. After all, the politician who got hospitality could well be accused (by a journalist) of favoritism were he to do anything which might be construed as being of assistance to the donor.
How can we be sure they haven’t just sold us out? Again. Just as they did when the reign of terror ran and ruined the lives of the kids in the industrial schools. When the media were complicit in the conspiracy of silence.

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